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Fact v. Fiction in The Crown’s second season

The Crown returned for a second season on Netflix earlier last month, and dramatised The Queen’s reign from 1955 to roughly 1964, shortly after the birth of Prince Edward.

Today we’re going to separate the fact from fiction in The Crown’s second season.

Please do not read any further if you have not caught up and do not wish to be spoiled.

  1. Did Prince Philip cheat on The Queen?

If he did, historian Robert Lacey says, there is no substantial evidence to prove it.

The relationship between The Queen and Prince Philip is the focal point of The Crown’s second season, spanning from the first episode – when Elizabeth finds the portrait of a Russian ballerina in his luggage – to the last episode – when Philip is linked to the Profumo Affair that topples MacMillan’s government.

  1. The death of Prince Philip’s sister

Prince Philip had four older sisters, Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie, and Sophie. In the ninth episode of The Crown, Prince Philip is shown fighting with a fellow student at Gordonstoun, preventing him from going to Germany over the break to stay with the heavily-pregnant Cecilie, who is terrified of flying.

Because he cannot go to Germany, Cecilie flies with the family to a wedding, and the plane crashes in the mountains, and all the passengers are killed (the body of a recently-delivered newborn is found amongst the wreckage).

The Crown implies that Prince Philip is the reason behind the plane crash and his sister’s death, showing their father, Prince Andrew, antagonising his son at the funeral for killing his favourite child.

  1. The relationship between Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones

The Crown implies that Princess Margaret had never met Antony Armstrong-Jones before the dinner party her lady-in-waiting invites her to, but in reality, Armstrong-Jones had already photographed the Royal Family.

Likewise, in the show, the first time Princess Margaret visits his studio, he takes a scandalous portrait of her where she appears to be nude. This picture is real, but not taken under the circumstances depicted on the show.

Princess Margaret also mentions that she and Peter Townsend had a pact that they would never marry without the other’s consent, events that seem to spark her haste to marry before Townsend does. Robert Lacey confirmed in an interview with USA Today that this was true.

  1. How much change did Lord Altringham affect?

We have Lord Altringham to thank for televised Christmas Messages, the end of the debutante season, and a host of other changes that modernised the monarchy, but events didn’t transpire the way they do on The Crown.

The Queen never secretly met with Lord Altringham (that we know of) to discuss his radical – for the time – changes, but Martin Chatteris did.

  1. Did The Queen keep Ghana in the Commonwealth with a dance?

The Queen insisted on visiting Ghana, telling Prime Minister Harold MacMillan, “I am not a film star. I am the head of the Commonwealth, and I am paid to face any risks that may be involved.”

She certainly danced with President Kwame Nkrumah, and he decided to stay in the Commonwealth after all.

The Crown presents this story as though a recent meeting with American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy prompted The Queen into going, but in truth, Jackie had nothing to do with the decision.

The Crown presents the aftermath of the Kennedys’ visit to Buckingham Palace as Elizabeth being hurt by comments that Jackie had made about her spurring her into action. In truth, Jackie did make comments, but there’s no proof that they made any effect on The Queen.

  1. Did Prince Charles hate Gordonstoun?

In a word: yes. He called it “absolute hell” and criticised his classmates as “foul” and “horrid.”

However, Prince Charles also gave an interview to the Observer where he seemed to praise Gordonstoun, saying, “I am glad I went to Gordonstoun… I didn’t enjoy school as much as I might have, but that was only because I’m happier at home than anywhere else.”

His younger brothers, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward (the births of whom are shown in The Crown’s second season), also attended the school. Prince William and Prince Harry were both educated at Eton College.

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